Guest Blogger: Andrew Hancock, Creative Designer
DC vs. Marvel may not be the debate shaking the foundations of the modern world, but to the comic book community, it is certainly responsible for the most dorm room scuffles and a fair share of broken friendships. Long have these two warriors battled for supremacy, taking their conflict to the far reaches of space and time; endlessly pressing the envelope until comics became some absurdity disregarded by the masses for their lack of continuity and nonsensical story directions. These days, to have a conversation about comics you need to determine which universe and/or timeline you are talking about, there are no less than four Wonder Woman origin stories, more than a dozen iterations of Spider-Man, Thor is now a woman and Captain Freakin’ America is a Hydra sleeper agent. Plus, we need to be realistic here both companies have been stealing comic ideas from each other for coming up on eighty years, as such, for the purpose this debate I’m staying far away from comics and focusing on two categories: The Cinematic Universes and Animated Films/TV Shows. Please remember, this is all my opinion based on two decades of obsession, enjoy.
The MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and DCEU (DC Extended Universe) is a difficult topic to tackle, especially for me. While Marvel brought the heat with Doctor Strange and a full line up of films plotted as far out as 2020, DC decided to change the game and bring a new face to the beloved Dark Knight, and somehow settled for Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck might have been “the bomb” in Phantoms (1998) but all he brings to the Dark Knight is atrocious acting and crippling depression for Batman fans. Now take the new Batman and the new and improved collateral damage Superman, set up a clash of the titans based on an ultimatum put forth by the worst adaptation of Lex Luthor since the 1988 TV series Superboy, and what could possibly go wrong? I’m pretty sure Martha is still rolling in her grave. I’d like to say I have really positive things to say about the other DCEU films, but I’m afraid the trend continues. Suicide Squad was a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but it came up short in every single way as a side note, I feel kind of bad for Jared Leto, Heath Ledger’s film adaptation of the Joker would be pictured next to “tough act to follow” in a dictionary of phrases.
At least in the realm of live action TV, DC has a leg to stand on. Marvel’s Agents of Shield had a small following, but it was never really touted as one of those shows you HAVE to see Like Arrow and The Flash, two DC based successes. It looked like DC was going to take it when it came to the episodic format, but once again Marvel’s toppled their hard built sand castle with Daredevil, a show that boasts blind loyalty from fans and a 95% Like rating on Google’s description page. If you looked only at the Cinematic Universes, I think we have a clear winner, but Marvel’s TV success doesn’t extend to the world of animation.
Cartoons, the start of it all for many of us long time Superhero fans. Where Marvel is clearly the dominant force in the film industry, and arguably the winner when it comes to the episodic live action format, but DC is the heavyweight of the next generation. DC boasts a massive library of animated films and TV shows, since the year 2000 alone, they have run thirteen animated series for at least one season. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited were huge successes in the early 2000’s, and paved the way for shows like Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Green Lantern: The animated Series, and coming up on three seasons of Young Justice. The last Marvel attempt was a disastrous attempt at a series centered around The Hulk working alongside the Agents of Shield. On the animated scene, DC isn’t only the leader in Saturday Morning Cartoons, they also command a strong lead in the animated film department. Since 2008, DC has released twenty-nine full length animated films ranging from Batman and the Green Lantern, to several versions of the Justice League. They’ve released a number of youth appropriate films, but have also delivered gritty more adult versions of popular stories for long time fans. Justice League: War introduced us to a new look for the popular cast of heroes, bringing quality animation and heavily comic influenced style together in a fairly accurate representation of Darkseid’s invasion of earth. The success of Justice League: War spawned the sequel Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and promises to bring more to clamoring audiences. It doesn’t stop there; Batman is significantly more successful in the animated versions. We’ve been given a deeper look into the Bat’s story leading up to the life of a vigilante, seen the controversial Killing Joke story arc explored in animated film, even witnessed his journey into the Supernatural alongside Zatanna Zatarra and Constantine in Justice League Dark, the supernatural spinoff of the usual Justice League. But the real success in DC’s animated lineup is the newest iteration of the Teen Titans, an old favorite of mine, so far two Teen Titans films have been published, with rumors of a third on the way. Marvel has made a few runs at their own animated films, but the majority have been lackluster, save perhaps the animated Doctor Strange origin story, but this statement is at least seventy percent personal bias in favor of Doctor Strange.
So here we are, at the end of this long, long rambling of some random nerd given a platform on which to roast the DCEU’s sorry attempt at mirroring Marvel’s success, then just one paragraph later singing the praises of their animation line up. I’d love to call it a draw, but when factoring audience reach, general popularity, Marvel is the clear victor. Despite the MCU’s commanding lead, maybe DC is playing the long game, bringing DC heroes to young people early, ensuring that the next generation is clamoring for the Justice League or the Teen Titans, maybe then they will get a shot at redemption. With the latest trend towards R rated Superhero films, that might just be the key.